What Are Termites?
Before we talk about how a DIY termite inspection for your property is performed, it might be good to talk just a bit about what it is we’re looking for. It’s always a good idea to “know your enemy”, so to speak.
Basically, termites are small burrowing insects that eat wood. They especially like damp or wet wood and wood products like paper. They love the paper that they find on sheet rock, especially if there is a damp path to it.
They resemble ants, are social creatures and live in colonies. They will also destroy your home if the circumstances are right and they get a chance.
Termites Are The Invisible Invaders
It takes a keen eye to perform a DIY termite inspection and truly know that termites are in your home’s structure. Often, homeowners find out only after a lot of damage has already been done. Even after an inspection has been done and a home has been declared free of termites, there is no guarantee it will remain that way.
It’s a very good thing to learn to perform a somewhat reliable DIY termite inspection on your home’s structure.
I’m writing after completing some research on how to inspect for termites myself. Last year I wrote an article about pest control and didn’t want to write about the termite dilemma since it can be a serious one and the best treatments are preventative.
What have I learned since then? Termites can be controlled before they invade and can be killed once they’re in the structure of your house.
Let’s dig right in! (Oh….well, so to speak);
What Does A Termite Look Like?
Termites look a lot like ants and like ants, are social in nature and live in colonies. The similarities pretty much end there though. They are about the size of a grain of rice up to about 5/8″ (the queen and king, although the queen is usually slightly longer than the king) and have soft, lightly colored to reddish-brownish-grey colored bodies. There are workers, soldiers and reproductives, which drop their wings and become kings and queens of new colonies. The colonies usually live in moist soil near a food source.
Plain and simple, termites eat wood and wood products and wood by-products. Especially the damp kind. They also eat stuff like paper, which is a wood pulp product. You can see what kind of damage a termite can do to the paper attached to sheet rock on one of my repair jobs: I took pictures.
Since their colony lives in a mound usually in the soil and have tunnel systems that carry the worker termites to and from their food source, they have to leave trails. Small ones….
How To Inspect For Termites; DIY Termite Inspection
Termites are usually detected one of 3 ways; first, when the colony is forming, termites swarming inside or outside of buildings as they move to a lit opening, like around a window can be seen. Second, they build mud tubes between their mound and there food source. You can see a mud tube on your house up from the soil against your foundation to the entryway to your home – on a slab, or on piers.
Finally, since termites like to eat the paper on sheet rock, you can see pinholes on the wall where they’ve invaded. The pinholes provide a way of expelling wastes from the holes they are boring as they eat their way between the sheet rock and the paint on your wall.
You will rarely see actual termites because they avoid light and open air situations.
Where To Look For Signs Of Termites
During a DIY termite inspection, you’ll walk around your house and look carefully along the foundation for small mud tubes between the soil and where the bricks begin. If you have mud tubes present around your foundation or on your walls, you’d better look closer.
Pinholes in sheet rock are a sign that termites are burrowing between the paint and the sheet rock itself. Do you have a stack of wood against your home? You may want to check that stack carefully. Especially if it has exposure to rain. So look for wood structure to ground contact. Look for cracks in your foundation. A termite needs 1/16″ gap to get in.
If you have a crawlspace, you can examine the piers or bricks for mud tubes. If you have a pile of debris under there, you may want to clean it up. Look closely at entry ways for pipes. Termites can work there way through the insulation around pipes if they know there is a food source on the other side.
You may find discarded termite wings on window sills. Floor boards that sound hollow when you knock on them are a sign of a termite problem. Cracked paint, usually near the floor can be a sign of termite invasion.
Professional Termite Inspections
I should emphasize that evidence of termite damage is invisible to the untrained eye until more or less extensive damage is done. This article simply offers some (not all) information on how to detect the critters. If you think you see signs of termites, you likely do have termites.
Any realtor should know a good termite inspector or pest control service if you’re not sure where to look. The inspection is primarily a visual one of the accessible areas of your home inside and out, including crawlspaces and sometimes attics.
A good termite inspection normally takes about 30-45 minutes to perform and the termite inspection company should give you a formal termite inspection report. They may offer advice about prevention, and if they find evidence of a termite invasion, should offer remedial treatment advice as well. If the termite report you get indicates anything suspicious or extensive, you should probably get a second opinion.
There are measures you can take for termite prevention and there are are several ways to kill termites, by utilizing pest control companies and on your own. I’ll tackle some of those topics in a later article.
Here’s to hoping you never have to go to war with the invisible invaders…